Wednesday, June 1, 2011

THE MISFITS (John Huston, 1961, USA)

Roslyn is a dying flower surrounded by three dead men, her crippling innocence blooms into victimization of a patriarchy whose objectification diminishes her humanity and consumes her. She is a creature of instincts, a great enabler who wants to heal the world…while running away from it. Roslyn is attracted to men who need her help but can’t be helped; men who are jagged puzzle pieces that don’t fit together and who must find their own way to find themselves.

Full of self-loathing, Roslyn is contrasted with Isabelle, an aging fiery woman of the world whose existential attitude is one of survival and gritty realism. Roslyn is lost and insignificant among a vast interior wasteland, a prison whose walls are flesh and bone. But her insights are profound and caring, wanting to help but not asking for help, her emotional body invisible against her voluptuous physicality, reflecting this pure misogyny that infuses our society. Gay and Perce are cowboys, a nomenclature that defines their superficial qualities of free men who shall never “work for wage”. Guido is the devious innocent, the manipulator who lives his life above others, looking down at the destruction he’s wrought but never seeing the people.

Director John Huston’s camera adores Marilyn Monroe and embraces her femininity with sensual close-ups that accentuate her lovely form, but often films her in reflection showing her dramatic duality as her morality surrenders to a hellish world. The narrative’s vertex is an emotional duel in the Nevada desert, as the three men subdue a handful of graceful wild-horses, pulling down the world with their own egocentric insignificance. Roslyn sees them as murders, machines of death, things no longer human, and her faint plea is almost lost amid the cosmos.

The soft whinnying of dying horses is her own death rattle, as she becomes a ghost in the arid desert. But Perce decides to forego the money and free the horses while Gay recaptures the stallion…only to set him free: he abides by his own terms. Roslyn’s fierce love resurrects Perce and Gay…but Guido remains one of the walking dead.

Final Grade: (A)


Samuel Wilson said...

It's hard to think of Eli Wallach even being much less playing a "dead man" but your point is well taken. Monroe's performance rings true, a remarkable feat given the difficulty of its assembly, and Gable arguably saves the best work of his career for last.

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks for stopping by Sam! I see Guido as the one truly egocentric character who doesn't change, is dead to others and himself. "You say the sad words", cries Rosyln. "You could blow up the world and only feel sorry for yourself."

Eli is awesome in this film and Clift's part (and Ritter's!) small but memorable. But you're right in that it's arguably Gable's best performance. This is my favorite Marilyn Monroe film and I tear up every time during the final act.

BTW: looks great on blu-ray though the disc is lacking of any extras.